Beet Pulp is available
- Plain - no molasses added. The only ingredient listed on the label will be "Beet Pulp". The sugar content of unmolassed Beet Pulp can range from 6% to 12% but is usually less than 10%.
- Molasses added. The label will list "Beet Pulp" and "Molasses". The sugar content of molassed Beet Pulp can run from around 12% to higher than 20%. Small amounts of molasses may be added for dust control without being listed on the ingredient tag.
- Beet Pulp "shreds" usually have no further processing after the sugar is removed, some shreds are chopped before being bagged. Size can vary from a "rough chop" to larger bark-like flat pieces.
- Beet Pulp pellets are shreds that have been finely chopped and formed into pellets.
- SpeediBeet is a brand of micronized (extremely finely chopped) beet pulp which absorbs water very quickly. Popular in the UK, it is slowly becoming available in the US.
How Much to Feed
A half pound (dry weight before soaking) of plain Beet Pulp makes a good low-carbohydrate carrier for supplements. This would be in the range of a couple of handfuls of pellets or a little more than half of a 1lb coffee can of shreds. This is the amount often used to replace a higher sugar/starch "prepared" feed.
Feeding a pound or two (dry weight) of Beet Pulp will help maintain weight and 3 to 4 pounds or more will help with weight gain without increasing starch levels as grain does.
Because of its high fiber content, it can be used as 25-40% of the ration for horses who have difficulty chewing.
Soaking Beet Pulp
Beet Pulp shreds can be fed without soaking - this has long been a practice at race tracks. Dry shreds are no more likely to cause choke than any other dry feed however most horses (and their humans) prefer them soaked, or at least moistened. Some shreds will soak up in as little as ten minutes in warm water; twenty to thirty minutes is usually adequate.
Beet Pulp pellets tend to be much harder than other pellets and it is strongly suggested they be fully soaked. They will soften up in an hour or two depending on the brand and temperature and will expand up to 10 times their original volume in 4-8 hours. It's really difficult to describe if you've never seen it.
Caution - I've soaked beet pulp up to 12 hours without any problem but have heard others report it getting "sour" if left too long, especially in warm weather. You can start soaking in the morning for an evening feed (and in the evening for a morning feed), keeping it out of the sun.
I like to drain the soaked beet pulp (I use a mesh colander) and will also rinse if the dry beet pulp was very dusty or if I think it might have a bit of molasses in it. If I notice a horse isn't drinking as well as I'd like, I will sometimes add some water back in and serve his beet pulp as a "soup".
You can then add supplements, salt and other "stuff" (I toss in a handful of Timothy pellets) either top dressed or stirred in.
Some horses will initially turn up their nose at beet pulp and will take some acclimating. It can help to start with just a little added to something they already like, then gradually increase the beet pulp while decreasing the other feed to make the transition. I've personally never encountered this - every horse I've given beet pulp to just dived right in. But if your horse needs a taste tempter, Megan's website page on Natural Flavorings has some good ideas.
I have found that using feed pans rather than wall feeders simplifies clean up - I can take the pans to a hose to rinse them out. (Left over beet pulp will turn rancid or mold if left in a feeder.)
Tips for Boarders
Boarding your horse always makes controlling your horse’s diet harder but many have found ways to work beet pulp into the routine.
If you can get to the barn daily, soak the beet pulp at home or at work (a small cooler can work well for soaking and transporting). You can do this once a week or so and keep it in baggies in your freezer, ready for a quick grab on your way out the door.
If the barn has a refrigerator, you can soak/drain/rinse the beet pulp at home and pack in individual baggies to keep in the barn’s fridge. (For more than 3-4 days, it should be kept in the freezer.)
While “soak/drain/rinse” is ideal to remove surface iron, dust and residual sugar, the draining/rinsing could be skipped if your beet pulp is unmolassed and relatively dust free.
If the barn owner is willing to help, make it easy for them. Pre-measure the beet pulp and your supplements into baggies, provide a large closed bucket or other container to keep your stuff neat and together. If needed, provide the bucket for soaking, a colander for draining, a metal sweat scraper for stirring. And be willing to offer paying a bit extra for this service.
Beet pulp is not “necessary” but is a low sugar/low starch alternative to bagged feeds and grain or can be used as a substitute for some of the hay ration (especially if you need to replace some high sugar/starch hay) and is well accepted by most horses. It doesn’t take long to get into a routine and the benefits usually outweigh any inconvenience.
Don't forget to check out Beet Pulp I - You want me to eat WHAT???
if you came here to Part II first.